Two weeks ago I appeared before the Commission on Judicial Appointments to speak as a “Witness in Support" of an outstanding candidate for appointment to the Court of Appeal, Judge Martin Tangeman. My interest in all judicial appointments is keen, but this one was especially important to me. The appointment was to Division 6 of the Second Appellate District, where I hang out. Over the years my colleagues, Justices Yegan and Perren and I have reviewed Tangeman's superior court decisions. I pointed out to the Commission that his statements of decision read like well-crafted opinions and that his warm affable nature would make him an ideal colleague.
It was no surprise that at the conclusion of the hearing the vote for confirmation was unanimous. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye administered the oath of office and I am pleased to report that Justice Tangeman is now part of the Division 6 aggravation…I mean aggregation.
I had a scare when I glanced at the program for the confirmation hearing. I was not listed as a speaker. Someone named Arthur L. Gilbert, an obvious impostor, masquerading as the Presiding Justice of Division 6, was listed as the first “Witness in Support." I do not have a middle initial, and, if I did, it would be a more impressive letter like X or Q. Francis X. Bushman and Robert Q. Lewis come to mind, names that mean nothing to people under the age of 70.
Nevertheless, I was determined to be the first “Witness in Support" of Judge Tangeman. When the Chief Justice called “Arthur L. Gilbert" to step up to the podium, I waited a moment to see if the miscreant posing as me had the audacity to appear. The Chief looked directly at me. I had no choice but to approach the microphone and announce that I would be speaking in place of Arthur L. Gilbert. I tried to make light of the awkward situation by suggesting that if the legal community was determined to saddle me with the initial “L," it could perhaps stand for “legal," or what I prefer, "lovable." The Chief took the matter under submission.
Arthur L. Gilbert has been dogging me ever since I became a justice on the Court of Appeal over 33 years ago. Every now and then I am referred to as Arthur L. Gilbert‑‑in an article, a news report, a law review article lambasting me, or, on rare occasions, praising me. I let it go by.
But that the irritating letter “L" should make its appearance at Judge Tangeman's confirmation hearing jolted me from lethargy. My name and I were no longer content to be pushed around by a mere letter. I launched a investigation to determine the origin of the annoying "L." I am grateful to noted appellate lawyer Benjamin Shatz who sent me a post from the SoCal blog: "State Bar records show that there once was a California lawyer named 'Arthur L. Gilbert' ‑‑but he was admitted in 1921 and is now deceased. His bar number was 34(!). PJ Arthur Gilbert was admitted in 1964 and his bar number is 34622."
There has to be some significance that Arthur L. Gilbert and I have "34" in our first two bar numbers. I made an appointment with a renowned board-certified numerologist. Just before leaving for my appointment with the numerologist, my mind began to meander, wander, and wonder, as it is often wont to do. They say that when one lets his or her mind wander, and I suppose also wonder, it often solves problems.
I couldn't help but think about the varied careers of the 34,588 lawyers that practiced between the years beginning with Arthur L. Gilbert's legal career and my own. And then I thought about the person Arthur L. Gilbert. What kind of guy was he? Did his friends call him Art? In grammar school, did they call him “Art the fart"? I was sure he was a good guy. And that got me thinking about Justice Tangeman at his confirmation hearing.
In addressing the commission, Justice Tangeman expressed how humbling it was to receive this appointment. His heartfelt comments caused me to reflect back on my own confirmation hearing when I became the Presiding Justice of Division 6 in 1999. And then a sudden flash of enlightenment struck me with the force of a Proposition 47 decision… yet to be decided by the California Supreme Court. I realized I was on the wrong track. I immediately canceled the appointment with the numerologist who is now threatening to take me to small claims court. Let me explain.
At my confirmation hearing, I was so impressed with the singular honor given me, and the awesome responsibility of my new position, that I questioned whether I was, in fact, the appointee. I told the commission that I had read that scientists in the field of quantum mechanics who have investigated string theory have theorized that there could be as many as 10 dimensions in the universe, not just our ordinary four. And this hypothesis leads to the possibility of an infinite number of multiple universes that duplicate us and everything we are doing.
The same hearing we were participating in was taking place in a parallel universe, maybe an infinite number of universes. But there could be slight variations in these parallel universes that sometimes make them almost, but not exactly, identical. I have trouble explaining the rule against perpetuities, so do not count on me to explain, let alone understand the complex mathematics that underlie this plausible theory.
I thought someone named Albert Gilbert was supposed to have received the appointment. But through a cosmic error, I received the appointment. At my hearing, I apologized to Albert Gilbert and expressed regret that in the universe where my hearing was taking place, I had received his appointment. Nevertheless, I had no intention of giving it up. He simply was not going to be Division 6's PJ. That's the way the cosmic cookie crumbles. Nevertheless, in a spirit of compromise, I did not object to him being Division 6's PJ in his screwed-up parallel universe.
But the epiphany that occurred to me after thinking about Justice Tangeman's hearing is that the likely person from the parallel universe who thought he should be the Presiding Justice of Division 6 was not Albert Gilbert. Of course, it was Arthur L. Gilbert. Why else would the confirmation program list his name? And what about the number 34? Apparently, Arthur L. is not happy with the way things have turned out and he is letting me know it. Yes, he's deceased. But every school kid knows that Einstein has proven that time and space are relative. In Arthur L.'s universe, his confirmation hearing may have taken place minutes ago or is about to take place in the future. Whatever. It's aggravating, but I am not angry. I bet Arthur L. would be far better at the job than I. It must be driving him nuts. But somehow, underneath it all, I sense he is reasonable. Perhaps there is some way we could meet in a time warp and come to an accommodation.
And, just think, we could set an example for the current presidential candidates.